Green laws ripe for reform

15th September 2011


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IEMA

Concern about the quality and effectiveness of environmental regulation in the UK has been voiced by lawyers in an interim report for a project by the UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA) and King's College London.

Legal practitioners believe environmental regulation lacks coherence, integration and transparency, says the report.

The project, looking at the quality of the UK’s environmental laws, has discovered confusion in several areas, including over an agreed definition of waste, the duty to conduct an appropriate assessment under the Habitats Regulations, and what constitutes “equivalent” amounts of electronic waste under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations.

Eloise Scotford, main author of the report and law lecturer at King’s College, told the environmentalist the research gives credence to anecdotal evidence that lawyers and environment professionals are finding it increasingly difficult to navigate UK environmental legislation.

“There’s a high volume of statutes in UK environmental law and no logical boundaries, so it is particularly susceptible to incomprehensible and inaccessible regulation,” she says.

Scotford also says it would be wrong to wholly blame the EU – which is the source of the majority of environmental legislation – for the poor quality of UK laws.

“The UK is not very good at transposing EU Directives; too often it ends up rushing through regulations to meet transposition deadlines,” she explains.

On a more positive note, the lawyers generally welcome developments to condense and simplify legislation, particularly recent changes to the Environmental Permitting Regulations in England and Wales, and the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) Regulations in Scotland.

The final report from UKELA and King’s is due to be published in February.

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